What If God Says No?

How do you keep praying for things that are so important to you that, if God says no, you're afraid it will make you hate Him?

I have a dear friend who is absolutely destroying her life. Between drug use and running away from her husband, kids and friends, things are looking quite grim. I don’t even know how to contact her at this point. It’s bad.

The problem I’m having is that I struggle in continuing to pray for her (as I have been for 10+ years). Not because I don’t have clarity that I should, but because I don’t want to hate God if he says “no” to what my heart desperately wants—for my friend to get her life together.

How do you keep praying for things that are so important to you that, if God says no, you're afraid it will make you hate Him?

That is the biggest obstacle to my desire to pray (or even reflect). I don't want to make things worse for myself for hating a loving God for denying my most desperate prayers. Maybe that sounds foolish, but I can hold a grudge with the best of them.

Thanks,

- Quittin’ Time

My friend,

First, before I start on any advice-giving, I want to just say what a privilege it is to hear your story and be let into this very sad, difficult and—if you’ll allow me—hopeful situation. I’m really sorry about your friend and the ripples of people who are being hurt by her brokenness. I think I’d have a hard time talking to God about this, as well—it’s a lot.

To your question: I have been praying for a few days about how to reply to you. And to be frank, I've been hesitating on this column because my best thoughts are, well, dangerous. You see, I've come to believe that the best way to get past a hangup or negative feeling about God is to take off the gloves and get into it with Him.

I've come to believe that the best way to get past a hangup or negative feeling about God is to take off the gloves and get into it with Him.

Now listen, before I get called a Pharisee (or worse—one commenter recently accused me of speaking for Satan. Thanks, Internet!), I have come to my conclusion that we can battle with God because of the following two verses:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)

“About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” (Matthew 27:46).

Here's what I take from those, and about the zillion other Google-searchable verses on having less than positive feelings toward God:

1. God gets you.

2. He can handle your doubt.

Yes, He can. Yet, when we think about being that kind of honest with God, we often shy away. Some set of inherited values kicks in and it feels improper, impolite or disobedient. And to an extreme, it can be. But don’t let that value system override the larger truth: God wants to know you, all of you—the good, the bad, the shameful, the frustrated, the joyful, the sorrowful.

We may view God as some patriarchal boss, which is just not the character of God. He’s endlessly dimensional and wants you, where you’re at, right now. My pastor used to say, "We cannot meet God where we wish we were. We either cry out to Him from the place we find ourselves or we will not cry out at all."

That’s it, Quittin’, be where you are and cry out to God from a real place of vulnerability and honesty. It helps, I know.

There was a moment in my life when I was in the middle of praying for the zillionth time that a difficult situation would be different and that God would just show up. And then, one day, I kind of snapped internally and said, "screw this.” I fell silent for a long time because I just couldn't take the non-answer anymore. I couldn't take the lack of bigger picture, and I couldn't take the option of "no.” Like you, I just lost the steam to keep praying.

Enter, God.

Surprisingly, during my time of giving full vent to my anger and lashing out at God, my heart started to heal and soften. Things weren't OK, but I calmed down, and eventually, I had enough energy to start praying, reading the Bible, talking to friends and hoping again. This was because God knew I had a broken heart and was out of my mind. What’s more, God cared for me even as I rejected Him.

Like any relationship, the darkest and most honest times often lead to deeper levels of love and trust.

Now listen, Quittin’, our stories are not a perfect parallel. I can't imagine the sadness you feel. But I do get the idea of being so afraid that God will give another “no,” or another bout of silence, that you just stop asking.

I would fight against that as hard as you can, and I'd bring that before God. Seriously, give it to Him: "Where are you, God?" "Am I not asking the right thing?" "I am so damn mad at you!" "Why have you forsaken me?" God has heard these things before, and He's able to hear them from you.

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The dangerous part is, of course, that our anger and honesty can—when unchecked—turn into desertion. To guard against that, I'd make sure that even if your head and heart is in the wrong place, your body is doing the right things. Things like reading, community, mentorship, etc. Then, once you’ve fortified your life and are ready to do it, I'd give full vent to your anger and not treat God as though He can't handle your disappointment in Him.

Like any relationship, dare I say even the one with your struggling friend, the darkest and most honest times often lead to deeper levels of love and trust—because someone was willing to go there and be real when it wasn't easy.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Trial comes first. It has to. But the difficulty will produce deeper levels of trust and intimacy if you keep holding on and continue to let God into the pain.

Let me know how it goes, Quittin’. We are praying for you and your friend, even when you can’t find the strength to do it yourself.

Have a question? Good! Send an email to AskRELEVANT@relevantmagazine.com. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.

Top Comments

ZM

1

ZM commented…

I think this response is completely appropriate for the circumstances where we are seeking gifts from God such as a spouse, a job, etc. However, I believe it completely ignores two points which are critical to the scenario described:
1. Free will - A loving and just God cannot MAKE her friend "get her life together."
2. God's will - Of course it is His will that her friend surrender to Him so that He can begin to "restore the years that the locusts have eaten." (Joel 2:25) It's not as though he's just arbitrarily saying "Nah, I don't really care about her," (see 2 Peter 3:9).

I completely agree with the response's perspective on a believer's ability to argue with God. I just think that it doesn't exactly apply in this case. I think a better response is likely (and unfortunately) less satisfying, because it should probably include some of the following ideas:
- "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." ~Matt 18:21-22
- "“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." - C.S.Lewis, The Great Divorce

Romans 9:18 also comes to mind, "Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." But my natural response to this is always Romans 9:19, "One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?" The rest of the chapter reinforces God's authority and just-ness in response to this response. This can make us angry and hurt, but we must remember that this is the same God that hung on a cross and took all of His own wrath for us.

In the end, the love and sorrow shown by the writer when she asks, "Why doesn't God fix broken people that we care about?" points directly to the love and sorrow God feels when He sees all of us going astray. But we can look to Him with thanks when we read that "the Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all." Isa 53:6

Donna Cole

2

Donna Cole commented…

It has been said that God answers prayers in three ways" Yes, No, Wait! In September 2012 I got the very sad news that my oldest son had suffered a stroke. In the next few months I prayed for his healing-that God would make him whole and I'd have my boy back. After many ups and downs John went to be with the Lord in January 2013. In between there was always highs and lows-even hope of full recovery. However, he contracted a raging infection that eventually was totally untreatable and in the meantime his poor brain was being attacked in such a way that he would never lead even half the life he once had. The turmoil of mountains and valleys in those few months truly tested my faith. In the aftermath, deep depression and rage against God were at the forefront of most days-even though I'd foundationally come to terms with the outcome. I still have my moments-his younger brother passed suddenly about 18 months later and losing two children took a toll on all that I believed. Today-yes-there are times when I ask why our loving God would do this to me. And when that happens I seem always to return to Job, and his reply to his wife: "Yea tho He slay me-yet I will praise Him". It's not always easy but I've found truth in that our God is big enough to handle our anger, rage and frustrations when prayers aren't answered as we would like. He reminds me often that He too lost a child...and that makes all the difference.

10 Comments

Scott Madeira

1

Scott Madeira commented…

There are so many dimensions to this issue. First, I agree that you can get angry with God and yell at Him and ask why is He doing / not doing what you think is best. Second, you need to stay in community with other believers to help you through this lest you go astray.

But, if you have things "that are so important to you" I would suggest asking God to show you what is important to Him and getting in line with that. God promises to hear our prayers that are in accordance with His will. (1 John 5:14) Nowhere does he promise to give us what we ask for.

All things work for the good of those that love him. (Romans 8:28) The answer may not be something that we consider good for us but only God knows what is good and best for us and your friend. The Lord's prayer teaches us to ask that His will be done here as it is in heaven. We are told to ask for our daily bread (what we need for the day) and to forgive others.

I don't want to sound harsh but at the end of the day, after careful prayer and consideration, if the issue is still that which "is so important to you," you may want to start asking who is God in your life - you or HIm.

Chelsea  Davis

7

Chelsea Davis commented…

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I needed it so much it brought tears to my eyes.

Rebecca Walker

1

Rebecca Walker commented…

Thank you for such a humble response to a very complex, sometimes messy, issue. I am grateful for people like you who take the time to pray about a response instead of simply writing off the cuff answers and "speaking for God" when many times it is the person who needs to be seen...just like God sees us.

Deb Gervais

1

Deb Gervais commented…

I too have asked this question. "What if the answer is no?" My story is different than the original post. My husband and I were praying for 3 years to have a baby. I had 5 miscarriages during that time. We were broken and tired.
For me the answer to the question became contentment and trust that God has a plan and that God's plan is good. There are so many things in this world that we have no control over. Finding contentment in my marriage regardless of little ones while trusting that God's plan is good became the focus of my prayers. My baby is now one year old and healthy and I thank God for her every day. The losses we experienced brought about God's perfect timing. It was difficult, but I know now that I have a hope and a future regardless of circumstances. See also Jeremiah 29:11.

Brandon Dearlove

3

Brandon Dearlove commented…

Counter question: What if there is no God?

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